The Interview

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A policeman interviews a mother. Her daughter's body was found in a river...

Submitted: April 13, 2017

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Submitted: April 13, 2017



The Interview


The night they found her in the river, the rain fell softly but insistently, as if it had no intention of giving up. The girl's teeth were used to identify her. She'd been thrown in already dead, wrapped in carefully chosen biodegradable bags typically used for garden waste. They suspected strangulation.

They'd arrested the girl's father.

The River Aire in Yorkshire was wide, green and generous: it was polluted and frequently flooded in winter, but Detective Sergeant Fletcher had grown up with it, sitting on camping chairs along its muddy banks, fishing with his father, or walking their dog, slipping when it rained. Still, it was unusual to find a body so near the city. He didn't know the river near the city, except to avoid it.

"Your call, Joe," said the constable, Lee Medland.

The sergeant nodded. It was nearly half past eight in the evening, and he should have been heading home. But there was no avoiding it. Detective Inspector Satnam Kaur was on maternity leave. No one else was qualified in the building. There were a few drunks in the cells already; there had been a football match on. Joe Fletcher inhaled slowly.

"I'll do it."

Medland looked at him with sympathy. "Don't fuck it up," he said.

Glancing at Medland, Sergeant Fletcher made his way to the interview room.


The woman was on her own. She was called Shehnaz Begum. Joe Fletcher scanned the top sheet of paper in front of him. 46 years old. Four children, including the girl found in the river. She had come over to live in Yorkshire thirty-two years ago. All her children had been born in the county.

Joe Fletcher sat down, meeting the eye of the constable stood in the room by way of acknowledgement. He listened as the preliminaries were recorded, as they always were. Date and time, interviewee and police names. Shehnaz Begum watched him as he put his papers neatly in the file.

"I want to call my solicitor," she said suddenly, not waiting for him to look up.

He glanced at her. "Shehnaz Begum, can I please confirm your name and address," he replied mechanically.

The constable present to witness the interview reeled off her name, date of birth and address.

"Yes," she answered, the sound of the yes as hard as a sibilant sound could be. Detective Sergeant Fletcher began observing her. A white scarf was draped over her head, but casually, as if she had flung it on as an afterthought. She was in traditional dress. Shalwar and kameez. Not especially warm clothing for the weather. She had no cardigan. He noticed her face. She was beautiful, if a woman three or four stone overweight and aged before her time could be beautiful. The detective thought she must have been beautiful once. She had arched, unplucked eyebrows and large, fierce eyes. She had very full lips, a thick straight nose, and no makeup on at all.

Her hair was in a long, thin plait, and at her temples, Joe Fletcher could see where she had applied henna to the white roots.

She looked hefty, as if she could fell a man.

"Mrs Begum, we are here to question you about the very serious matter of a murder. The murder of your daughter, Anise Begum. You are fully entitled to legal advice, and we respect that. But having only just found the body of your daughter, we can understand that you must be anxious to help us."

What was he doing? Why had he employed that tactic? Joe Fletcher resisted glancing at the two-way mirror. Don't fuck it up, Constable Medland had said.

The woman looked surprised. "Yes," she answered. "We are very anxious to help you. My husband did not kill my daughter. You are making assumptions about us."

The detective glanced at his notes. She spoke excellent English. With a curious mixture of two accents, Pakistani and Yorkshire. The file in front of him stated that she worked as the manager of a chemist's shop, a small chain local to the region.

"Can you tell us a bit about your daughter, Mrs Begum?" asked Joe.

She blinked twice, rapidly.  She was watching him as if he were a skilled adversary, as if they were sat at a table of war. Her mouth opened, one side before the other, as if trying to not grimace.

"She was the third of your children, I understand?"

Shehnaz Begum raised her chin slightly. "Yes. Our second daughter, seventeen years old, studying at college, no trouble at all. She helped at home, she looked after her younger brother, we would never want to kill her. Never."

Joe Fletcher nodded. He could feel the constable standing behind him move, as if he twitched, the twitch effected slightly, subtly.

"And she got on well with your other children, you stated in the police report when you reported her as missing," he continued. He looked up again from his file. It was important to control the eye contact. To not let the mother's large-eyed, hardened gaze dictate the psychological flow of events. He had to pick and choose when to look at her.

"Can you tell us why you took so long to report her missing?"

Shehnaz Begum's mouth moved again, one side opening before the other. As if an angry expression wanted to escape from the left side of her head. Her hands were on the grey matt finish of the plastic table, and they were plump and light brown, the colour of a rich sand. She wore several gold rings, the wedding ring sat atop a pink-stoned engagement ring. She had gold bracelets on, real gold, and a mid-range, silvery watch.

Her hands were lightly clenched, as if she could knock someone out.

"Well, I told you before. She had her friends, we didn't know them. We didn't ask her about them. If she wanted to see them, go, we said. You can go and see them. Go, no one can stop you from doing anything. You can do what you want here, Anise. That is what we said to her." The woman's voice rose in pitch as she spoke, as if she were speaking to her daughter in the room. Joe Fletcher nodded, again sensing Constable Skinner move slightly behind him.

"Why didn't you know anything about her friends, Mrs Begum?"

The woman looked almost sulky. Shrill, as if a scream of rage might escape, or powerlessness. Joe watched her, slowly thinking. It was as if she were angry, but not with them. She was angry about being in the interview room, but not angry at them. He could use this.

"I don't know. She never came home with them, she never introduced us."

Joe looked at his file. "A friend of hers testified that you did not approve of the friends she made at college and refused to allow them home or for her to see them after college."

Shehnaz Begum bristled. "We could never stop her from doing anything."

The anger against her daughter prickled the air.

"Your oldest daughter is married, yes? Does she work or study?"

Again, he resisted glancing sideways towards the two-way mirror. Why was he changing tack? Guaranteed to anger her.

"You are making assumptions about us. Yes, she is married. Should she be single?"

"Does she work?"

"She has just had a baby."

The way the woman said baby was different. The word was like a wave in her mouth. Joe Fletcher couldn't quite articulate the difference in how she said it. It was a sweet word when she said it, as if it conjured the image of a baby better than when he said it.

"This baby will never know his or her aunt, then. It's going to affect your family for many years, isn't it, the murder of your daughter?"

Shehnaz Begum did not answer. Her eyeballs, the detective noticed, were sallow, with faint, undulating lines of red running to the tear ducts. They looked unhealthily streaked as he waited for her answer.

"Do you miss your daughter?" he asked.

She burst into tears. Deep sobs met the grey surfaces of the interview room, as if wrenched and corkscrewed out of her, through her stomach, through her gut.

Joe Fletcher waited for her. He absently thought of his two colleagues, Medland included, watching through the two-way mirror. They would leave the station soon, and to a man, head to the pub, or more probably the fridge at home, where they would pull out a beer, and stand at the fridge door a moment, holding in a breath and then exhaling it slowly.

Sounds emerged from her, a different kind of sob that sounded like a sigh, as if she self-comforted. The wife would ask if everything was all right, if she noticed, if she was around, and not upstairs bathing the children.

"You wouldn't care if your daughter had sex with every man in this police station, would you!" spat out the woman. She hissed the words, as if enraged by her own tears, and her fury blazed towards, but still not really at, him.

Joe Fletcher's mind passed over the constables in the station, the two men watching behind the two-way mirror, the drunk men in the cells. He thought of his daughter. She was six; they'd had children later than their friends and acquaintances. They'd taken their time deciding. His life had been the police, their dog, fishing, the pub. They had thought long and hard before having children.

"I wouldn't kill her for it," he replied, involuntarily.

The woman looked at him. He thought of his daughter, and it took him a moment to hear the sobbing begin again.



© Copyright 2018 E.A.Rice. All rights reserved.

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